This post is written by one of our Contributors Clay Smith.
It is a verse that has been consistently abused. It is a verse that has been falsely used to say that God’s greatest joy in the world is to shower gifts upon mankind, both saved and unsaved. It is a verse that has been used by TV evangelists to steal money away from unsuspecting viewers. It is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
It is unfortunate that so many well-meaning Christians misinterpret this verse. Too often people take this verse and many others like it at face value. We see the word prosper, and we think that as Christians we should get everything we want. When this does not happen, we start to doubt God! For this reason, we must understand the context that the author is speaking within. This verse was not written to all who read it; it was written solely to the Israelites in exile to Babylon. Notice that Jeremiah 29:10 states, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” Obviously from this we can tell that the author is speaking specifically to the captives in Babylon. In the beginning of verse 11 he uses the word “For”. This word tells us that it is connected to the words just previously spoken. Verse 11 should not be used on it’s own out of context.
With all of this being said, why is Jeremiah 29:11 one of my favorite verses? Simply put, this verse truly demonstrates to me God’s incredible ability to forgive His people. The Israelites disobeyed God constantly to the point that it is annoying to read about, yet He still promises them a future. If such a sinful people has God’s forgiveness, then maybe a sinner like me can have forgiveness as well. As Christians we cannot become apathetic to the fact that God’s forgiveness is so incredible. We must understand how unlovable we are, and we must understand how blessed we are to have a God that forgives. God’s forgiveness in our lives should convict us to live each moment for Him. He deserves our obedience more than we deserve his grace.